By David M. Greenwald
UC Davis – A protest and counterprotest turned violent at UC Davis on Tuesday night as Proud Boys showed up with pepper spray to disrupt a protest that had taken place outside of a Turning Point USA event at the UC Davis Conference Center.
The planned speaker for the event was Stephen Davis, the host of a weekly podcast who has become a self-described “bold conservative political activist.”
A statement by UC Davis describes about 30 people inside the university approved event waiting for the vent to begin.
Outside however, were about 100 protesters and counter-protesters according to the university—including some who, according to reports, wore apparel labeled Proud Boys, fought among themselves, used pepper spray, knocked over barricades and removed traffic cones.
The university said that some in the crowd used barricades to beat on the glass of the UC Davis Conference Center. The event was canceled, with the remarks “out of concern for safety.”
According to the university, “Staff from Student Affairs on-site agreed that there was grave danger should the event continue.”
The Vanguard spoke with Dillan Horton who attended the event along with his dog, Tinkerbell, not expecting violence.
“I didn’t expect anything violent. That’s why I brought Tinkerbell,” Horton explained.
Horton acknowledged that the crowd was a bit more unruly, “beating on the windows and sort of agitating the sort of private security that had been hired.”
At one point protesters rammed the barricade into the glass.
Horton was surprised that the glass didn’t break, “This glass must be really strong because they were ramming it for like a minute and a half with the metal barricade and it didn’t break.”
Originally the protesters were across the street, but they moved in closer to take the protest right in front of the conference room.
Horton around 7 pm heard someone yell, “Fascists behind us!”
Horton looked and saw about 10 members of the Proud Boys—wearing hats and shirts with emblems clearly visible. As described by Horton, the Proud Boys had not been inside the event but instead came later.
“They were there to instigate our people to fight them in the streets,” Horton explained.
In addition to pepper spray, they picked up some barricades and tossed them at the protesters.
Some of the protesters attempted to place the barricades between the Proud Boys and themselves.
“I would just say that the fact that the Proud Boys showed up and pepper sprayed people and assaulted them was an entirely predictable outcome of this event,” Anoosh Jorjorian, who was also at the event, told the Vanguard. “Whenever you have right wing events like this, it’s going to attract right wing extremists and it puts the entire community at risk.”
Jorjorian described that some protesters got pepper sprayed directly in the face and there was at least one physical altercation, but neither Horton nor Jorjorian saw anyone seriously injured.
“They were wearing sweatshirts that literally said, Proud Boys,” Jorjorian described.
Jorjorian added, “This is not my first Proud Boys rodeo.” Adding, “They didn’t chant my name this time, so that was good.”
Jorjorian said, “It just makes me angry that they leave their towns where they live and they come to ours to harass and injure.”
Moreover, “I wish that they would suffer consequences for the kind of mayhem that they bring with them everywhere. But that’s just does not seem to happen.”
Horton noted that this represented an escalation.
“My thing is I feel like we’ve gone through this, at least in the time that I’ve lived in Davis, a bunch of times where there’s been like, Oh, Proud Boys are going to show up at this place,” Horton explained. “And in my experience, it’s usually overblown. Either no Proud Boys actually show up, or it’s like two dudes in a baseball cap and who don’t do anything by it.”
Horton said, “So this is the first time I’ve experienced them coming in, more than five numbers, and just immediately willing to turn to violence.”
Remarkable in all this—no law enforcement arrived to quell the situation.
Both Dillan Horton and Anoosh Jarjorian were critical of the campus for not having police involved in the escalating situation.
“There was no campus police,” Horton explained. The campus acknowledged that police were not called upon. “No cops showed up at any point.”
The concern now is that the presence of groups like the Proud Boys agitating at local events will continue to escalate.
Jorjorian noted later that had the police shown up, they likely would have been there to arrest the protesters—an observation borne out by the university’s focus on the protesters rather than the violence of the Proud Boys.
Jorjorian said, “This is our world now. The Proud Boys obviously came to our school board meetings and they came to the Woodland drag show. They have been showing up at drag story times at libraries. They had their annoual Straight Pride event in Modesto.”
Jorjorian added, “This is our life now. “They want the world to be a certain way. They want to make it in the image that they want it. And this is what they’re willing to do to try to make it so,”
The university focused on the fact that the event was shut down rather than the escalating political violence surrounding the Proud Boys presence.
In a statement, the university said, “It is unfortunate that the event could not proceed as planned. As a public institution, UC Davis values and supports freedom of expression as rights guaranteed to every citizen. When the students agreed to cancel the event, UC Davis Student Affairs staff successfully evacuated the students and speaker from the building.”
It continued, “The health and the well-being of our community is our priority. In preparing for tonight’s speaker and activities, we worked with the students to create a secure environment, including a safety plan, where freedom of speech could be exercised, including for those wishing to protest the speaker. UC Davis Student Affairs staff attended the event to provide education about student expression and to encourage respectful and productive dialogue.”
Said the university, “Hateful words are protected by the First Amendment. Calls for harm to others or acts of violence are not… As a public university, we are committed to the First Amendment, and we are required to uphold it. We affirm the right of our students — in this instance, Turning Point USA at UC Davis — to invite speakers to our campus, just as we affirm the right of others to protest speakers whose views they find upsetting or offensive.”